Alex Benay: on a Digital Public Service

Transcript - Alex Benay: on a Digital Public Service

Hi my name is Alex Benay, I m the CIO of Canada.

I thought I'd share with you eight important elements to a digital country and also a digital public service that governments must adopt in the 21st century.

First thing I'd like to bring up is that digital is absolutely everything we do.

Gone are the days where new businesses are not digital, the business model is digital and government has to adjust to that reality.

It s no longer a back office function of servers and waterfall project management. Digital must be baked into our policies, into our programs and into our services at all levels of government. The next thing that I would say is our engagements have to be replaced. How we do things has to change. 

No longer can we do two years of definition requirements, two years of procurement, five years of waterfall deployment and then hope to have a good result in a digital space, because by then the technology has changed about three times. 

So, we have to get used to releasing more data, working with more stakeholders and doing results delivery through partners and ecosystems, as opposed to a linear fashion.

Third thing I would say, is that our policies and our legislative landscape absolutely has to get used to changing more quickly and has to get much more integrated at a federal, provincial and municipal level.

The countries that are winning in digital, are the ones that are changing the fastest and countries globally are starting to realize that there's a time-to-market.

Time-to-market used to be a private sector issue, it's now very much a national issue. The country that changes their laws the fastest, that changes their regulations the fastest, that helps, for example, accommodate block chain and cryptocurrency technologies the fastest, will have major socio economic benefits. 

The fourth item that I would tell you is that we have to get used to being much more open and transparent.

When we are developing new policies, we have tools at our disposal now that were not available even five years ago. So if we re developing policies, services, programs, even software solutions, why not do that fully in the open where the citizens can engage and participate.

Another point that s important to me is as government employees, we have to get used to not being the experts anymore.

We have to accept the fact that there are smarter people than us that are actively funded to be smarter than us.  What I mean by that is: all three levels of government have contributed to an artificial intelligence ecosystem across the country; why not leverage that expertise which is being imported from all over the world.

We have to accept the fact that we are no longer experts in certain areas and actively work more closely with the experts in those fields.

Another point is that public service absolutely must adopt more open source software.

I know this is a contentious point for a lot of us in the technology space. This doesn't replace ERP systems that we have for our finances, or our HR, or our email; but anything that is forward-facing, that is customer-engaging, that is service-oriented with citizens or businesses, we should be able to co-develop those services with academia, with industries, with citizens. So let s adopt more open source software into our architectures.

One of the final points that I want to bring up, is our people. 

So our human resources model actually in the context of the gig economy, must also look to change. Gone are the days or we can go recruit people with the intent of giving them a 35-year career. Those days are gone, the gig economy is here, and people would prefer to have a few years here and there, short stints. Our hiring practices for the most part, especially in the federal provincial spheres, are often too slow to enable that kind of a change. We need to be able to have a more porous public service.

Last thing that I would say is that digital has to be your first mindset.

When we're designing services, it must be through a digital lens. We will always have service counters, we will always have people that need physical services, absolutely, but even those can be digitally enabled. 

So moving to a digital first service approach like some of our maritime provinces, for example, must absolutely be a cornerstone of public policy moving forward if Canada is to continue being a digital nation moving forward.  

So there you have it, those were some thoughts on a digital country and a digital public service. 

Feel free to reach out to me on any social media platform you can think of because that's where you can find me and we re happy to have a dialogue on GC Digital, public sector digital transformation, and digital Canada.

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